Calf in Hay -Hunts Four Corners FarmWe begin our story the last week of March each year. I begin artificially inseminating the 12 to 14 months old gift_cert1heifers so that they will have their calves 283 days later, right after January 1st of next year. We choose bulls to use on heifers that will sire calves that are smaller and lighter than average. This makes their first experience of motherhood safer and less eventful. For 4 weeks, I will breed these heifers as needed. We allow a bull to run with them for the next 4 weeks to cleanup any heifers that I may have missed. These heifers are then taken to rented pastures for the summer. During this time, I am also busy checking the calf crop that is arriving from last years works.

By this time, the cows have finished calving and are getting close to needing rebred. Around Memorial Day each year, I begin artificially inseminating the cows that have calved this year. This time we have a wider selection of bulls to use. The cow has had one calf as well as grown to mature size by now and can handle a larger birth weight calf. This allows us to mate her to a sire that is going to produce a calf that meets our particular goals for the offspring. At this time, we may also place embryos that were fertilized and removed from a donor cow and place them in some cows. This allows us to get several offspring from our top producers in one year. After 4 weeks, we turn a bull in to clean up any cows who did not conceive to artificial means. The bull stays in for 30 days, after which time he is taken to a separate pasture and will not see cows again till next spring. This time table allows all the females to have there calves during a 120 day period.

Calf Feeding From Bottle - Hunts Four Corners FarmCalving starts around the first of January each year. Around December 1st, we bring all first time calvers here. We pen the mothers close to calving time and turn them in and out. This allows us to keep a close eye on the expectant mothers, and intervene if things go wrong. Upon arrival our first concern is that the calf gets up and nurses. This first meal of colostrum from its mother is very important. It contains the natural defense the calf needs to fight off illness early in life. We like to see the calf get 1 gallon of collostrum in the first 24 hours of life. If there is any question, we have collostrum saved from other cows we can feed to any slow starters.

As soon after the calf has nursed as possible, we tattoo an ID # in the calf’s ear, apply a plastic ear tag with this ID, give shots of vitamins A,D,&E, and administer a nasal spray vaccine for pneumonia. We record the calf’s birth weight, sex, color or markings, ID, and mother’s ID. First time mothers sometimes take extra time to figure out their job of caring for the new baby. After the two have bonded and the calf is up and moving for a couple days, we take them to run with the cow herd in the woods. Since the first calvers generally do not milk as well as mature cows, them being the first to birth gives there calves a couple month head start on the bulk of the calf crop. Calving at this time of year allows me to spend more time with the mothers who need it before I get busy with spring work.

About the time the heifers finish, the cows in the woods begin having their calves. Since they have already had one baby, they tend to calve on their own in the woods with little or no problems. We still check the cows regularly during calving, and have to work each calf the same way we do the heifer’s calves. It is a more natural setting, but does hold challenges to complete this work. Cows can hide newborns well enough that we can not find them, and once you do find them, you may have to keep an angry mother off while you work the calf.

Stock at Feeding Time - Hunts Four Corners FarmMany of the heifer’s calves are getting large enough now to start looking for food other than mom’s milk. We begin placing feed out for the calves in a creep area adjacent to the cows feeding area. This space has a shelter as well as a feeder to hold the creep ration. This ration contains protein, oats, and corn. It is formulated to promote growth in the young stock. The gate to this area has gaps in it that are large enough for calves but not cows. All year round we feed chopped corn fodder and baled hay to the cow herd.

Early September each year, we gather all the heifers, cows, and calves. Our local vet comes and helps us with pregnancy checking females, worming, vaccinating all cattle, and calf work such as dehorning or castrating. At this time, we find out which cows conceived and which ones didn’t. The cows have had two opportunities to become pregnant at this point and any found open are shipped as culls.

The calves are weaned from their mothers and taken to our house to be started on feed and observed for any sickness. This is the only time we find any need to treat calves. The change of being taken away from their moms and starting on a grain/forage based diet is an opportune time for illness. We treat them much as you would your children. If they get sick then they are treated. We do not use any feed thru antibiotics as we believe this builds resistance. Calves are fed home grown forages, locally grown grains, distillers by products, and natural protein sources.

Once the male calves are started eating grain well, we move them to the feedlot at my parents to be fed out. At the feedlot, we cut back on the forage intake and increase the corn intake to develop fat around the muscle as well as intramuscular fat. The steers will be feed for almost a year. The target weight we are shooting for is somewhere between 1200# and 1400#. This is greatly influenced by genetics of the animal and demand for the meat market.

Cutting Steaks - Hunts Four Corners FarmAn appointment is set up to deliver the calf to Knightstown Locker to be processed into the cuts that you find in our freezers. We generally try to haul the calf to Knightstown on Monday evening as they have a wider window to receive cattle the night before they kill. Tuesday late morning the animals are killed and hung. The state meat inspector checks all the carcasses as they hang before anything is placed in cuts. The halves of beef are left hanging in Knightstown’s refrigerated coolers for 14 days. This increases the tenderness of the meat and is referred to as dry ageing. After the waiting period, the halves are then cut and processed into the packaging. All meat contains the Establishment number for Knightstown and date butchered. We receive a call when all work is completed, at which time we drive to the locker and pickup meat and bring directly back here. We organize by cuts and rotate stock and offer for sale to you in our market.

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